TV White Spaces—the unused spectrum between TV channels—have the potential to bring wireless broadband access to underserved and rural areas. These low frequency signals can travel long distances and fill a need in places where telecommunications infrastructure is lacking.
Google, joined by a group of partners (CSIR Meraka Institute, TENET, e-Schools Network, WAPA, and Carlson Wireless), wanted to help make this potential a reality. In March 2013, the grouplaunched a six-month trial using TV White Spaces (TVWS) to bring broadband Internet access to 10 schools in Cape Town, South Africa. The goal of the trial was to show that TVWS could be used to deliver broadband Internet without interfering with TV broadcast.
After six months, the trial has been a success. The participating schools, which previously had slow or unreliable Internet connections, experienced high-speed broadband access for the first time. Teachers were able to use videos in their lesson plans, make Skype calls to other schools, update school websites, and send regular email updates to parents. Students could use educational videos for research. Because the service was better and faster, teachers and learners used the web to enrich the classroom experience.
At the same time, multiple sources confirmed that there was no interference with TV broadcast. Trial partner CSIR Meraka Institute performed frequent scientific studies to measure any potential interference over the six-month period. We also provided tools for people to report any interference experience while watching TV. Both the Meraka Institute’s findings, as well as crowdsourced reporting, show that the TVWS service did not interfere with local broadcast. We’ve published the final results for a deeper dive on the outcomes of the trial.
ICASA, South Africa’s communication regulator, plans to use the trial outcomes as inputs into the TVWS regulatory process. This is a big step to bringing this technology to more of South Africa. We also hope the results extend far beyond this trial and can be useful in encouraging others to consider TVWS to help bring the power of the Internet to more people in more parts of the world.